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What Are Whitening Cosmetics?

Skin lightening cream.
Whitening cosmetics can be used to treat vitiligo.
Whitening cosmetics may be used to whiten teeth.
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  • Written By: Sonal Panse
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 04 July 2014
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Whitening cosmetics are natural and chemical cosmetics that are used in beauty treatments for skin lightening and teeth whitening purposes. Cosmetic whitening pastes, creams, lotions, soaps, and medications have been in use since ancient times, and have a high consumer following in the present age. Along with the popularity of such products, there has been and continues to be controversy about the racist aspects of skin whitening, as well as concerns about its safety and long-term health implications. In the case of teeth, it is a matter of concern whether frequent teeth bleaching and peroxide whitening may cause damage to the tooth enamel and gum tissue.

To begin with, it might help to understand how whitening cosmetics work. Teeth whitening products improve tooth appearance by targeting and weakening pigment molecules in the enamel. Skin whitening agents, on the other hand, target the melanin pigment in the skin epidermis, break down or inhibit melanin formation, and render the pigment colorless. The skin, as a result, starts to look paler or lighter than its normal hue. Such an effect is particularly evident in dark-skinned people.

Fair-skinned people also use whitening cosmetics, mainly to get rid of freckles, to lighten age spots and to even out any skin pigmentation problems. The whitening may also be performed to treat a medical condition like vitiligo. In this disorder, patches of lighter color appear on a person's body, and, by whitening it, the skin can be given a more uniform appearance.

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It is essential to consult a licensed dermatologist before using any type of skin whitening cream, skin lightening lotion, or skin bleaching agent. All ingredients are not always listed on the labels, and some whitening cosmetics may contain harmful chemicals like hydroquinone and clobetasol propionate. Hydroquinone can produce blue-black splotches and dots on the skin, and steroids like clobetasol can suppress the natural body steroids and cause problems such as hypertension. Indiscriminate usage can also lead to some unfortunate reactions like permanently bleached skin, blotchy skin, skin prone to irritation, or thin skin that is easily bruised and easily damaged by the sun. Skin cancer may also be a possibility.

It is also a good idea to visit a licensed dentist for teeth whitening. The chances of permanent tooth or gum damage will be reduced if the procedure is carried out professionally. It is usually sufficient to have the teeth whitened once or twice a year at most.

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Discuss this Article

anon242310
Post 8

Recently I have heard of whitening cosmetics, which contains mulberrin. Is it harmless?

julies
Post 7

I have always wondered if those people who whiten their teeth all the time are doing any damage to their teeth?

It seems to be a pretty safe procedure as my dentist has done it for a long time. My son has beautiful, white teeth, but uses teeth whitening products all the time.

The first products he used where given to him by his dentist, and he had a mold made of his mouth. He would squirt the whitening solution in the mold and wear it for a few minutes every day.

Now he uses the white strips he buys at the store. His teeth are still just as white, but will all these whitening products cause him problems with his teeth later on?

Mykol
Post 6

I recently read an article where a man had cosmetic eye whitening surgery. He was tired of having red eyes and people always commenting on how tired he looked all the time.

I don't know how this would be much different than laser surgery for your eyes, but I don't think I would want to mess with my eyes that way.

I can see why there is some controversy over this type of surgery. The cost was also around $4000 per eye, and because it is a cosmetic surgery, it is not covered by insurance.

Before reading this article, I had never given any thought to having surgery done to have white eyes. If my eyes are red or bloodshot, it is usually because I have not got enough sleep or something is in my eye.

My eyesight is too precious to me to think about having a cosmetic surgery just to have white eyes.

John57
Post 5

@golf07 - I have only had experience with one whitening product, and did not have a problem with dry skin.

I have been using some Elizabeth Arden whitening capsules. Instead of putting something on your skin, you take these capsules that have vitamin C in them. These capsules are supposed to control the melanin in your skin.

I have been taking them to lighten up the freckles on my face. The capsules would be quite a bit different than soap or creme cosmetics, but my face has felt much softer since taking these capsules.

golf07
Post 4

I bought an herbal whitening soap to help even up my skin tone. I have patchy skin that never seems to look very even or toned.

I also have a darker complexion and felt like these spots were even more noticeable with this color of complexion.

When I started looking for a whitening soap, I was surprised at the number of whitening products there are available.

I don't know if they are all this way, but the whitening soap I was using was very drying to my skin. It did make a difference in my skin tone, and I even had to change my foundation color, but my skin has never this dry before.

I make sure and follow up with a good moisturizer, but am beginning to wonder if the results are worth it.

I am wonder if all of these skin whitening products have a drying effect like this?

SteamLouis
Post 3

@turquoise-- It may not be as widespread as it is in Asia, but many people in the US use whitening cosmetics too.

I also use them. I have face masks and face moisturizers with whitening effects. I use them because I have a lot of acne scars and blemishes which darken under the sun. Whitening products make them fade and eventually disappear so I use it several times a week along with a daily sun-proof lotion.

I just want a more even skin tone because I don't like to wear concealer and foundation every day. I prefer to be natural but my scars and blemishes make me feel bad. I think high quality whitening skin cosmetics are safe and they work.

fify
Post 2

My sister got mouth burns from a teeth whitening product she bought online. She used the product before going to bed and woke up with horrible pain in her mouth the next day. The doctor said that she had burns in her mouth and asked what the ingredients were in the whitening product.

It turns out there was way too much hydrogen peroxide in the whitening creme which can cause burns and also permanent stains on teeth. The hydrogen peroxide content is not supposed to be more than 10% but some products which are sold online carry more than that.

After this experience, neither my sister nor I use any teeth whitening products on our own. We go to our dentist to have it done. It costs us more but at least we know that whatever is being done is safe.

turquoise
Post 1

I'm interested in the race and self-image aspect of skin whitening cosmetics because I witnessed this first hand when I was in Asia. I lived in Asia for several years, I've been to China, India and Indonesia. In all of these countries, I saw a huge market for whitening cosmetics and men and women were really self-conscious about their skin color and wanted to be fairer.

In fact, I remember not being able to find a bar of soap without whitening properties in India and Indonesia, that's how prevalent it was.

This trend really worries me because South and Southeast Asians naturally have darker skin due to genetics and the region they've lived in for centuries. I don't know when this trend for fair skin started, but I think it has become a serious issue for social well-being and self-image.

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